Fox Flashes Superstar Potential in Third Season
It seems like De’Aaron Fox is just scratching the surface.
After being named a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2019, Swipa continued to make strides in his third season as a pro.
Fox finished the season as Sacramento’s leading scorer, racking up a career-best 21.1 points per contest, while also leading the squad in assists per game at 6.8.
Even more notable was De’Aaron’s play during the NBA restart in Orlando. Despite suffering an ankle injury in the leadup to resuming play, No. 5 didn’t seem to miss a step.
In the Kings first game back in action, the Kentucky product scored a career-high 39 points against the San Antonio Spurs.
And, during his six appearances in the bubble, Fox averaged 25.3 points, 7.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.
Unsurprised, Kings Head Coach Luke Walton saw the makings of Fox’s ascent before the NBA hiatus.
“I think it goes back to his play before the stoppage of play, the regular season, not the bubble,” Walton told James Ham of NBC Sports. “I really thought he was making some solid progress.”
In the 2019-20 campaign, De’Aaron’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) – which sums up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player's performance – also rose to a career-best 20.6, improving on the 18.1 PER mark from a season ago and ranking him No. 7 among point guards in the NBA.
A critical aspect of Swipa’s game has been his ability to utilize his speed and quickness to get to the rim. While shooting the rock from distance has been something he’s leaned on to diversify his offensive arsenal, No. 5’s third season showed he’s more willing than ever to attack the rack.
In 2019-20, Fox attempted 31.2 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet away from the basket – the highest in his career – where he connected on 66.5 percent of his shots.
In addition to attempting more shots near the hoop, De’Aaron also drew more fouls.
The Kings guard saw his free throw attempts per game climb from 5.1 last season, to 6.7 this year – ranking him No. 4 among point guards in the NBA. On top of that, his free throw rate (which measures attempts from the line per field goal attempt) jumped up from 37.8 percent to 42 percent.
"He definitely [isn’t] afraid coming down the lane," said one NBA assistant coach to Mike Schmitz of ESPN. "That's guaranteed."
got to his destination with ease!
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) August 10, 2020
Speed has been one of Fox’s greatest strengths, but he explained to ESPN that slowing the game down has been a key to his development.
"I'm playing slower than I've ever played in my life," Swipa told Schmitz. “I'm doing this a lot now because everyone's already afraid of the speed. So if I'm playing slow, they're trying to anticipate when I'm going to take off. Now it's just keeping them on their heels."
Aside from scoring, Fox also made progress in his playmaking in Year 3.
The Kentucky product saw an increase in his assist percentage (33.2 percent to 35.3 percent), while also seeing a decrease in his turnover percentage (from 15 to 14.2 percent). His assist percentage was also the 10th highest in the NBA during the 2019-20 campaign.
"Continuing to get better at manipulating the game and passing the ball, I think that goes hand in hand," Fox told ESPN.
F X finds E N pic.twitter.com/GRhGQlI2LA
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) August 6, 2020
“As he continues to realize that when he gets to that paint, defenses collapse and he can start picking apart and picking which shooters he wants to get shots, I think that’s going to raise his game even more and raise our team,” Walton added to NBC Sports.
As much as his game has grown, the 22-year-old guard is still only scratching the surface of his potential – and, his well-documented speed is sure to continue to be a sight to see for fans and opponents alike.